Getting off the ground is harder than it looks…

It amazes me how there are still parts of Manhattan that I have never been to.Yesterday, I went to just such a place – W. 60th and 11th Ave. – to go to an Aerial Dance Class at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. An absolutely gorgeous dance school, the lobby was bright and spacious with all of these ballet-clad kids milling about, getting ready for their next classes. I love when one of these deals leads me to places I would have never known about otherwise.

When I arrived for my “Absolute Beginner” Aerial class, the advanced class was still going on so after stashing my stuff, I went to peer through the studio window. I have wanted to try an Aerial Silks class for years, mostly because of watching people like the ones practicing in that room. Not because they are perfect, but because they look like they are having a grand adventure in the air while practicing to make something beautiful. I don’t watch the Cirque du Soleil and think “oh, I could do that”, but when it is just off from perfect, without the lights and costumes, I watch and think “oh, I WANT to do that!”  While I was waiting, another girl came up to watch and wait for our class too.  She looked like a dancer and we got to talking. She asked me if I had ever done Aerial before and I was quick to say no, since really, I never thought Aerial Yoga, while fun, counted as an actual Aerial class. She hadn’t ever been to this studio but was also quick to point out that she was a beginner because she “had only been doing it for 3 months” which to me means you are NOT an absolute beginner any more, be proud of that, don’t dismiss it!  For a while it looked like we were going to be the only ones in class.

Our teacher for this class was Guinevere DiPiazza who was subbing for the normal teacher. She was a beautiful, tiny bundle of dancer muscle, with a huge broad smile and I knew I would like her. Class started with warm up conditioning routine and it was the first and only time in the class I felt even remotely like I had a clue or any coordination. During the warm up, another student showed up, who was obviously a regular and greeted warmly as she came in “Monkey!” and it was at that moment that I fully realized that I was going to be the super clueless one. Normally, silks are shared by a group of 3-4 students who take turns, but since our class was so small we all had our own silks to work with, a rare special treat.  For me though, the bigger, more amazing stroke of luck was that this particular class had a teacher’s assistant – the unfailingly patient Stephanie. As the only one who had never done silks before, she worked with me over and over on the basics. It took what seemed like forever to get the basic foot lock to do the splits in the air trick but I did finally mange, a few times even! My favorite moves though were the inversions. I REALLY like being upside down. The first inversion was the easiest, since it involved tying the silks into a loop that you sort of rolled back through coming into a wide straddle. I managed to do that easily, and it made me super happy. The second version was without the silks tied, where you held on at shoulder height, arms bent, and flipped your butt over your head straightening your arms as you went over, which made me feel a little like Spiderman. I could get there, but moving on FROM there, was out of the question. Butt overhead, holding on for dear life, check. Pretty and graceful moves after that? Nope. Apparently though, just getting to that point in my first class was a really good thing – since I heard the two teachers excitedly pointing out to one another that “she didn’t even need a spotter on her first try!” I was like oh, they are talking about me! In a class where I mostly felt like a bumbling fool it was nice to know that I really didn’t do so badly for my first time.

I definitely want to go back though, because even though I was terrible at it, it was ridiculously fun!

photo: Stephanie gracefully demonstrating the basic climbing move as Guinevere explained the technique to us…. I never made it remotely that high but I did at least get off the ground!